Blog 4 Assignment: Face Work

For this assignment, I want you to think creatively about Erving Goffman’s article “On Face Work” and apply it to a possible social situation.

First, create a social situation or scenario in which the participants are actively engaged in the “face-work” that Goffman talks about. For example, imagine a job interview where things aren’t going so well and the interviewer and interviewee are trying to make the best of things, or there are a number of people at a party and someone suddenly spills his or her food or drink on another person and the others try and minimize the situation. Or you can think of an example where people try to “score points” on one another through verbal actions (p. 233) such as a politician in a news conference.

In your response, you will need to identify the participants, and then give some specific examples of things that the various people might say to either make the situation better or worse (remember, it isn’t just the content of what people are saying, but other things like timing, manner, body language, etc.). Identify if the scenario you created is an example of “basic face-work,” “aggressive face-work,” or “cooperative face-work”.

After your description, you need to offer a brief analysis of the scenario. How does it illustrate Goffman’s basic principles?

Have fun with this assignment. Read the article, and then think about possible situations that illustrate the points that Goffman makes.

2 thoughts on “Blog 4 Assignment: Face Work

  1. I am going to create a scenerio that is an example of “appropriate face-work” by definition of Goffman. In this situation, a girl, let’s call her Anne, dated a guy named Scott for a little over a year. They have a fantastic relationship; however, there is one issue: they live 1200 miles away from each other. Anne lives in Michigan and could leave due to still being in school, and Scott was indefinitely working as a Physical Therapist in Colorado. As a result, a year into their relationship, despite the fact that they got along great and loved each other, Scott out of the blue broke off his relationship with Anne. Anne, in turn, was very hurt, as she felt extremely blindsided. To make matters worse, four days prior to the break up, Anne had just returned from spending the weekend in Colorado with Scott, who, during that weekend, told her he loved her and wanted to spend his life with her. During their break-up conversation, despite the fact that Anne wanted (and in a sense had every right) to scream and cry and tell Scott how much he had just hurt her, Anne remained poised, calm, cool, and collected. She listened to Scott’s reasonings, and left the conversation on a very good note. She responded to his explanation with phrases like, “I understand” and “I see where you’re coming from.” Not only did she use those phrases, but she also ensured that her tone of voice remained genuine and free of sarcasm. Her motive behind acting so calm was because she kept reminding herself throughout the conversation how much Scott loved her relaxed, go-with-the-flow personality. Along with that, she also knows how non-confrontational Scott can be, and, when confrontonted aggressively, shuts down in social situations. Knowing all of this, Anne could not control the fact that the relationship was ending; however, she could control how Scott perceived her during and after the break-up. As a result, Scott was so shocked and impressed by her reaction that he decided he wanted her back and, in turn, begged her to get back together with him. It didn’t work.
    In this social situation, Anne’s “face” is perceived by both her and Scott as being very laid back and relaxed. She knows how much he loves this aspect of her personality; therefore, she maintains it even during times where she wants to simply freak out. In this situation, Scott expected Anne, like anyone who is being broken up with, to become extremely upset, even angry. When she did not act as he expected her to, it threw him off, and as a result, it influenced him to change his mind and want her back eventually.

  2. I really enjoyed reading your scenario. It was very interesting and engaging. I’d like to spend some time unpacking a few things though, I was also wondering why Scott broke up with Anna, although that’s not really important, but in addition, I was wondering if someone’s face-work and if having their face in line with their personality is something that influences decisions like a break up so heavily. I am also wondering if someone’s emotions are considered to be a part of his or her line. In this case, in a break up, it usually follows the pattern of one party explaining their reasoning while the other is very emotionally unstable. That type of interaction is something that is “in line” with that scenario of an unexpected break-up. Your scenario brings up an interesting debate for me because I feel that people usually plan out how conversations or things are going to go in their head based on past experiences, interactions and the other person’s personality. These planned out conversations are usually things that fall in line with common situations that may also be with the expectation that someone is out of face or in a situation that may not be comfortable. I’m wondering if this instance of a conversation not going as one would usually expect it to go and someone staying true faced is something that would throw the other party off and take them out of face, or if this act of staying true to face to save face in a tough situation is actually someone being out of face in this instance?

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